Top 5 Coffee-Shop Etiquette Tips in the Age of Laptop Hobos

Categories: Caffeine, Top Five

laptopstarbucks.jpg
Photo from Daniel Lobo
I don't know about you, but I can easily hole up in a coffee shop, start writing (and by that I mean scouring Facebook and watching cat videos on YouTube) and not realize until three hours later that I haven't moved or refilled my cup. But coffee-shop owners, it seems, are noticing.

I've read a number of recent articles detailing the measures taken by coffee shops around the country to ensure that "laptop hobos" aren't taking up space that could be used by paying customers. As early as August 2011, some New York City Starbucks locations began covering outlets so people could only partake of free Wi-Fi as long as their batteries lasted. A Denver shop called Wooden Spoon recently stopped offering free Wi-Fi and banned laptops and cell phones altogether. Some businesses are taking an even more passive-aggressive route, changing the Wi-Fi password every two hours or placing an automatic time limit on Internet access so you have to buy something else if you want to continue to use the free service.

I talked to a few Houston coffee shops to see what the baristas thought about "laptop hobos," and the responses from employees of Agora, Blacksmith and Antidote were surprisingly pro-technology. All agreed that the use of free Wi-Fi on laptops and tablets was generally not an issue.

"The only time it's egregious is when they don't buy anything," one of Antidote's coffee gurus told me. "It's okay if you buy the cheapest thing and stay as long as you want. But I have kicked people out for not buying anything."

Fair enough. With that in mind, and after talking to some customers as well, I came up with this list of coffee-shop etiquette tips. And no, I didn't write it while drinking one cup of tea for three hours at Starbucks. Not this time, at least.

5. One chair per butt.
Yes, that is a nice laptop case. And I bet you spent more money on that purse than I do on my rent. They're both lovely. Now put them on the floor. No matter how empty a place is, it's rude to take up an extra chair for your belongings. It's especially inconsiderate in a busy place with little seating such as Blacksmith and most Starbucks locations. Don't be a table hog, either. If it's just you and your laptop at a giant table, don't fill it up with papers and plates and empty mugs. It's not your personal desk. Make it clear that someone else can sit there too by keeping your clutter to a minimum.

Location Info

Map

Antidote Coffee

729 Studewood, Houston, TX

Category: General

Blacksmith Coffee Bar

1022 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX

Category: General

Agora

1712 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Music


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16 comments
HoboBureau
HoboBureau

Hobo Bureau was just launched at https://hobobureau.com

for Laptop Hobos, Freelancers and all those working from home.

Cafes and other public places are rated as workplaces and we will soon try to launch more features to help the community.

Vanessa Torres
Vanessa Torres

"I do what I want. You're not the boss of me." Ha and if I pay for coffee and a snack, I'm going to take up some space and enjoy myself. If you're an unhappy person who wants to concern themselves with what everyone else is doing, so be it. If students want to go to the coffee shop to study, write papers, and do research, then more power to them!! That is probably half of the coffee shop's clientele as it is!!

Eric Walls
Eric Walls

How about you do your 'writing' at home, and not in public, you pretentious douche. People go to coffee shops to drink coffee and talk, NOT to stare at the Jetta driving hipster creep with his Mac out 'writing'.

Marcos Del Hierro
Marcos Del Hierro

These seem reasonable to me. What about bathroom etiquette? I think that's more important than anything else.

sollerja
sollerja

Building on #2 above - don't use the wifi generously provided by your neighborhood shop to illegally download stuff that could get the shop in trouble.  I run a shop, and we regularly get nastigrams warning us about illegally downloaded music, movies, tv episodes.  They can tell us exactly what you illegally downloaded (One Direction - seriously, Game of Thrones, porn are common) and when, but unfortunately not who you are.  No matter what kind of parental control we put up, passwords, etc. - the only thing that can really stop you from illegal activity is YOU.  So don't be an asshole and steal stuff using our wifi.  Please and thank you.

diana
diana

@Vanessa Torres and your very rude and I'd never want to know your childish selfish self-centered azz grow up already..you do what you want with no regards for any other persons feelings..how's that working for ya

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Somebody needs a cup o' joe. BTW, Mr. Walls, coffee shops rely on a wide spectrum of customers. Without the "Jetta driving hipster creep with his Mac out 'writing'," your coffee-chat options would be reduced to donut shops, Denny's, and convenience-store parking lots. 

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

And just so sollerja's statement isn't just a rant from the bit'ness man--it sucks from the customer's perspective, too. A certain hated coffee chain has been experimenting with charging for WIFI for a minute. Know why? Crap like sollerja cites.

Remember 2008 and Hurricane Ike? Wasn't it great how a bunch of businesses--including that hated coffee chain--offerred e'ryone the chance to charge up their electronics and use the WIFI? Keep screwing around and those gestures will go away.

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@MadMac The coffee shop employees I talked to were surprisingly nice and tolerant about the whole thing, but they aren't the ones paying the WiFi bills. It really does seem like the customers I talked to were more concerned about not abusing the free WiFi though, which is refreshing. Maybe there are fewer coffee shop assholes out there than we think!

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

@KaitlinS Actually sharing TV shows is quite legal; no difference in that and taping something to VHS and lending it to your neighbor; or taping it on your DVR and showing it to all your friends. It's media like music and movies that will get you into trouble, and I think cable TV is a grey area.

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Thank you. Honestly, I think my Mrs. and the house cat are plotting my imminent demise. Apparently I'm a little difficult when I'm not smoking. Go figure.

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

I just quit smoking...again. So, not much sunshine here. Only had a bad interaction once in Austin with one of the stores piloting the WIFI charge. After I cussed a blue streak and prevailed, I felt bad. Coffee boy got a $10 tip on a $1.50 cup o' joe.

Downside was I had to admit my Mrs. was right ~sigh~ and upgrade to a smart phone.

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@MadMac Damn, that's a surprisingly sunny outlook for me today. Usually I'm pissed at the world. Someone must have spiked my tea at that hated coffee chain this morning...

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